Eid in Oman

Perks of living in Dubai is some extra holidays ๐Ÿ™‚ In September Eid is celebrated in the UAE. When we found out we were getting a week off for it we decided we had to go somewhere. The most cheap and cheerful option was Oman so a group of us got together and decided to go for a few nights. 

We got together booked some cheap flights, found a bargain hotel and booked two day trips all before we left. Way more organised than I’m used to! 

The flight was quick and easy and we rented a cheap that could fit 7 of us which was handy. The first evening we just had a drive around and went for some food. No alcohol available so we drank back at the suite instead but had an early enough night for an early start in the morning. 

We met our boat driver at the nearby marina at 8am. We had a big enough boat to ourselves where we could just chill out and soak up the sun while the friendly driver brought us to firstly see dolphins. There was so many we couldn’t believe it! Very proud of this shot! 

After spending a bit of time watching the dolphins and following them we were brought to a few different fishing spots, where we all with some serious effort, all caught a fish each! It was a good laugh and we had the music going and enjoyed the sun at the same time. 

We decided to order in dinner that evening and have some drinks in the hotel. Drinking games and the likes. 

We enjoyed a bit of a lie in the next morning before going on a road trip to the surrounding mountains and hill tops to see really nice views and get lost in random little villages. It was good exploring. 

Move to Dubai

I’ve already been here over a month and as usual I’ve managed to jam pack my time. The time has flown but yet I seem to have it in a lot in to a short space of time. 

Arriving into Dubai this time around was definitely a different feeling. I was excited about my new settled life with a routine and my own apartment but I was also petrified of exactly the same things. I had fallen in love with the travelling lifestyle and wasn’t sure how I was going to take to working and staying still for a long period of time. 

Pool on my rooftop! #Dubailife

I arrived to a very friendly welcome from my vice principle and was sorted with a sim card  straight away and then transport to my apartment. I was more excited about seeing the apartment than Dubai itself. I have always wanted to live on my own so this was the biggest seller of Dubai for me. 

I opened the door to my 14th floor apartment and was instantly delighted. Open plan, marble floors, two big balcony’s and two bathrooms. No oven and the couch is a more of a large chair but other than that I was in love and can’t wait to make it my own. 

There was a school lunch for new people to meet each other in Dubai mall so I quickly changed and straight into a taxi.Everyone was very nice and friendly and coming from all different backgrounds. The majority of new people were Irish so we organised to meet for the Kilkenny game in the local Irish bar later that night. Good way to start! People couldn’t believe I was just off a plane and still had energy but after the year I just had, it was a piece of cake! ๐Ÿ™‚

The first few weeks were a blur of socialising and induction, trying to digest all the new information and expectations. Nerves definately set in very quickly since I havnt worked in so long! Admin is renowned for being awful here so everything takes so long between organising wifi, bills, bank accounts, visas etc it can take months.

 

My first impression of exploring Dubai is what I expected. It has plenty of beautiful places to visit, eat, drink, relax, people are very friendly and it has a huge expat community. People work very hard here but play very hard at weekends. 

The brunches are amazing though. I now know what all the fuss is about. All you can eat and drink for a fixed price and everyone dressed up ready for a good time. Food is always unreal and the after parties are great craic. Expensive hobby though! As a working abroad experience so far I’m enjoying it but am I in love with Dubai? Not yet. If it wasn’t for the people I’ve met and my apartment I don’t know how I’d feel about it. But as usual I am going to make the most of it, explore it more and see what it has to offer before I make any decisions about what my next step will be. #worldismyoyester

The Aftermath…Adjusting to home life

I read lots of blog posts about how it can be difficult to settle into ‘normal’ life after travelling especially when It was for as long as me. I couldn’t help think that the posts were a bit dramatic. How hard can it be?! I expected holiday blues, depressed about the cold weather and stress about money and job hunting. All of these definitely were issues I faced but I was shocked at how hard I found it when I got home and for so many more reasons that I didn’t foresee.

Leaving Dubai I had mixed emotions. I was finding it difficult to accept my trip was over and couldn’t imagine being at home. I was obviously excited to see my friends and family but was also conscious I didn’t want to get too excited because the welcome home can be over hyped in your head. Ofcourse people are delighted to have you back but they all have their real lives to go back to and can only give a certain amount of time to listening to endless travel stories. I was also in dread of life at home jobless and penniless. Back to reality and obviously not being allowed to complain about it as I have been off ‘gallivanting’ for the last twelve months!

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Welcomed home by the dogs

I was greeted at the airport by one of my best friends. Not going to lie it was a very emotional reunion. I had decided to surprise my family and come home a few days earlier than planned….Bad idea! I arrived home to an empty house because they were gone to a wedding, so long story short my first night home I slept on a couch in my sister’s house!

It was more amazing than I expected to see my parents and friends again and my niece that I had never met. (Another emotional meeting!) Everyone was so good to me, lots of wine drank, mammy cooked a roast dinner, daddy served up the Irish fry and lit the BBQ, friends brought me out. It all made me realise just how lucky I am and I shouldn’t have been complaining about my trip coming to an end.

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Daddy lighting up the BBQ

 

Saying all that the first two weeks at home I found especially tough. ย At first it was small things like the silent bedroom at night to myself after getting so used to full dorm rooms, then it was the fear of forgetting the memories and wanting to talk about it all the time incase I would forget, followed by the need to keep in contact with all the friends I had made on my travels to keep reliving what I was missing but the hardest was feeling like I had nothing on common with the people around me anymore because I felt I had changed so much but nobody understood or cared.

 

Thankfully after reading lots of articles on the effects of returning after a long stint travelling and talking to travelling buddies who had previously returned home, these feelings eased and I started to settle into ‘normal life’ without the guilt or fear that the experience I gained would disappear from my memory and all the lessons I learned would be forgotten.

I treated my time at home as much the same as my travels as I could. Making the most of the time I had, doing things as cheaply as I could but still finding things to do I hadn’t done in years or never done before. ( I highly recommend a Cruise of the Cliffs of Moher!)

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Cliffs Of Moher

Job hunting was tough and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster but i managed to finally secure a job I felt happy with and still allowing me to continue new adventures, as I am not ready to stop travelling yet. So it’s off to Dubai next! I still have the fear that going back to working full-time will knock the relaxed, easy-going, traveller vibe out of me. I will just have to make I make the most of my weekends and holidays, for a change! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Road trip to Ardmore on the one sunny day of the Summer!

 

 

Last stop…Dubai

Can’t believe I’m writing about my last stop on this unbelievable adventure. I was so lucky to have friends waiting for me is Dubai as I arrived there the night before my birthday. So it was great to know people and have good company.
In arrived in Dubai at 7.30pm. The minute I got in the taxi I could feel the culture shock. The huge sky scrapers, expensive cars and western shops. The girls apartment was amazing with an amazing view of the marina and lit up skyscrapers.

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Birthday balcony photo

It was great to be handed an Irish cup.of tea when I got there and have a good catch up. We didn’t stay up too late because we wanted to be ready for the big day ahead. The girls had booked us in for one of Dubai’s famous brunches and to make it even better it was the last one before Ramadan started so I made it just in time.
We got all dolled up after a necessary birthday shot and headed to a nearby hotel for 12pm. I was astounded by the luxury of the brunch. The girls got great entertainment at how excited I was because they said this brunch was quite small by Dubai standards. But to me after travelling for a year and living cheaply, this was like heaven!

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Plate number 1!

I couldn’t believe the selection of food to choose from. Everything from roasted duck, stir fry to sushi to a huge cheese section. Not to mention the chocolate fountain and dessert section. Ofcourse there was endless wine and gins also to get us ready for moving to a bar after which was full of expats and locals all mixing and partying together which I really liked. Definitely a birthday to remember!

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The next day was a great couch hangover day with Irish tea and treats. When we eventually recovered we went for a walk to the Marina and beach which is gorgeous. We had a nice meal in The Cheesecake Factory at the beach and walked back to take in the skyline.

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Dubai at night

As I was at the very end of my funds I was happy to use the girls free gym and pool in their building and enjoy the novelty of cooking and cleaning while they were at work. In the evenings we went for walks to see lovely parks and more of the Marina. I can’t get over how luxurious and over the top everything is. It’s very obvious how rich this country is.
We visited some malls including the biggest mall in Dubai which has its own aquarium! Another mall which has an indoor skiing centre! I never thought I could fall in love with building until I saw the Burg Khalifa. It’s stunning! The fountain shows that happen every half an hour are unreal. We spent a few hours watching them as it’s a different song every time.

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Fountain Show

The week I spent here flew. The only downside of my time here was that it was during Ramadan. So there can’t be any liquids or food consumed in public from sunrise to sunset and no music played anywhere. It was interesting to see but I underestimated how much I like a takeaway coffee or bottle of water when I’m on the go. My friends love living here and I can see why. It’s a very comfortable lifestyle and plenty to do so we’ll see hopefully I’ll be back ๐Ÿ™‚

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Goodbye for now ๐Ÿ™‚

Bangkok again!

The only thing that cheered me up about not staying in Cambodia for longer was the fact I was going to Bangkok again. We found a gem of a hostel in a very different part of Bangkok than I was before and it was right on the BTS line. Adventure hostel had free breakfast all day which was just cereal, bread, noodles and biscuits but available all the time with dvds and music and a wii to play with, we were in our element!

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We arrived on a Saturday evening on another very comfortable sleeper bus. Birder was a long walk through but easy. We arrived on the weekend on purpose so we could make the famous Chatuchak market. We got up early on the Sunday and spent the whole day in the market. We love bargaining and finding small souvenirs to bring home. Can’t believe it’s this time of my trip already!

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Coffee break at the markets

The next few days we spent on the train exploring different parts of the city. Lots of night markets, cluttered shopping malls, street food and a look at the famous Soi Cowboy. Tacky Street full of bars with girls in bikinis trying to pull the men in.
We met a fun group of Italians who were just starting their trip so we joined them for a birthday celebration on Soi 11 which was a nice Street with cool but very expensive bars. I got the beat suki soup I have ever tastep at the street food restaurant though. Due to the crazy prices we ended up jumping in tuks tuks and going to Koh San Road. Still as tacky and loudly as ever but cheaper drinks and packed. Too many tequilas were had.

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Going to miss glass noodle pad Thai ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

After that night out we had a trained day and just went to a night market and to find some good satay. How am I going to cope without such amazing cheap food?!
On our last day we went to Victory Monument to wander around the crazy jam packed malls and buy a cheap ice coffee. Then we went to a beautiful roof top bar Nick found online. Its a dingy looking apartment building with a fab rooftop restaurant/bar andย swimming pool. As usual drinks were crazy prices so I was on the minerals but the view was stunning.

We went to a nearby restaurant for food and then back to the hostel for a few drinks to help us sleep. With Nicely flying to London and me flying to Dubai we didnt want to stay up too late but that didn’t happen!
On the plane now and genuinely cannot believe it’s nearly 12 months I have been gone and I’m still not ready to go home.

Battambang

Unfortunately after reassessing funds while in Seim Reap I realised doing the south of Cambodia wasn’t affordable. I’m pretty gutted as I wanted to see the coast but the weather at the moment is really bad aswell so wouldn’t be worth stretching the budget to capacity and the transport alone would have cost a fortune.
I still wanted to see some more of Cambodia so I decided to go to Battambang, which is a town nearer the border and only a 4 hour bus journey away. We took the cheaper option of the local bus which was the usual sweaty, longer option but we made it in one piece.
The hostel ‘Here be Dragons’ were waiting with a free tuk tuk to the hostel so that was a nice bonus. I loved the hostel the minute we arrived. Friendly staff and really nice atmosphere. We went on a walk to explore and get lunch. The heat was immediately difficult to deal with, Cambodia is definitely the most humid place I’ve been in a long time. We found the market and decided to eat some noodle soup there, my usual.

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Duck egg skewers.

We walked for a short while after lunch. Everyone in the town is so friendly.The river isn’t great but the bridges and riverside is kept really nice. We relaxed in the hostel aircon for a while before venturing out for some street food across the river. I gave the beef lok lak a go. Still not that exciting but think it’s the places I’m getting it. We went to a bar that was set in an old building and had a quiet drink but we’re fairly exhausted at that stage so we had an early night.
Feeling more fresh the next morning we decided to rent bicycles so we could explore more. After a Bloody Mary breakfast we rented our bikes from a friendly local who we also booked our bus to Bangkok with. We went to taste the ‘best coffee in Cambodia’ and then cycled on the tourist trail around town. Locals waving at us all the way and saying hello. I love the people here.

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On our bikes!

We saw lots of huge, colourful monuments and a large temple. We got back just in time for a tuk tuk tour to the Killing Cave, the viewpoint and the Bat Cave. The driver dropped us at the bottom and gave us directions but it was still very confusing but we eventually made it to the cave which was quite eerie and to the viewpoint which was nice.ย  The bats were by far my favourite seeing thousands and thousands of insect bats flying out in formation from a cave. It was amazing. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the sun set because of the cloud but the trip was still worth while.

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Watching the bats

As it was our last night in Cambodia we went to a cheap local restaurant ‘Nary Kitchen’ recommended by our hostel. We cycled there and the owner immediately was out to help us with our bikes. I finally got to try Fish Amok which is the famous dish of Cambodia. It was amazing!! Fish in a coconut milk sauce in a banana leaf. So good. I heard Cambodian food wasn’t great before I came here but my experience has been fairly good in general.

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Last Cambodian meal

We cycled back to the hostel and had a nightcap as it was cocktail night. I couldn’t turn down an orange twist GnT could I?! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Not excited about the 6am bus in the morning! :/

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Battambang River

Surprised by Siem Reap

The overnight bus wasnt the most comfortable but was short and did the job. Arrived at our hostel at 6am to be told we couldn’t check in until 3pm! Joys of hostel life! We went on the hunt for some cheap breakfast and found a 1.25 rice and noodle lady down the road. People here again are so friendly and always smiling even if they’re not selling you something ๐Ÿ™‚
We explored the pub Street and market for a bitย but the heat was soon fairly unbearable so we went back to make use of the hostel pool and wait for a friend who was joining us. For lunch I grabbed some cheap fresh spring rolls at the market. I’m going to miss fresh spring rolls so much!

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Downtown hostel. 3dollars a night! ๐Ÿ™‚

I researched tuk tuk drivers as I had seen some recommended on traveller Facebook pages. It’s a huge business here because it’s the common way to go see the temples. We went down town for 25c beers and doing a really good local cheap restaurant that was our haunt for the few days.

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Khmer cuisine isnt too different from Vietnam

This banana blossom salad was amazing and the local Khmer sauce/curry is a delicious peanut based sauce and they serve everything with coconut rice. Yum!
We had an early night as we were booked in for a 4.30am tuk tuk to Angkor Wat. Chay Chou was waiting for us bang on time with his very comfortable pink seated tuk tuk with a mini fridge with water and hand towels for us. We decided on the small loop as it’s the cheapest and just covers the main temples. It’s an expensive day out with the ticket being 20dollars plus 6dollars each for the tuk tuk after some of my well-practiced bargaining of course!
Unfortunately for us the morning was very cloudy so the sunrise was fairly non-existent but the temple Angkor Wat itself cheered us up. It was amazing!! So huge and so much to see. To go upstairs you must have your shoulders covered, we had scarves but they weren’t allowed so a woman in the line in front of us gave us two spare shorts she had I’m her bag! How jammy are we?! I also met a girl I travelled Cat Ba with roaming around the temple aswell, small world!

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Our disappointing sunrise

After Angkor Wat we saw some smaller temples, the Victory Gate, Bayron Temple which has all the faces inbuilt. It was amazing! Lastly we saw the Tomb Raider temple as it’s known now. Full of huge trees growing through the rubble, it was unbelievable to see.

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Angelina Jolie territory!

I didn’t think I could be impressed by Temples but I really was. Well worth the money. Our tuk tuk driver was a really good guide aswell telling us loads about each temple so that helped too. We were back by 11.30 and we got some early lunch and had a much-needed nap. We had a wander around the markets and got a few bits, bargaining is very easy here and expected. We got our bus booked and had some 2 dollar whisky bottles between us. Visited the cheap cocktail carts that line the river. I ate a fried tarantula and fried insects of some sort from a street stall. Pretty tasty actually just very chewy! We danced in the local bars for a bit with a mix of locals and tourists. Good bars here and good music and again everyone so friendly.

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Siem Reap is somewhere you could definitely get comfortable and spend a while as it’s small and condensed but cheap and friendly. There isn’t a huge amount to do other than the temples but its a well-kept town and nice to stroll around.

I made it to Cambodia! Pnomh Penh

So despite all budget problems I have somehow managed to get to Cambodia. I won’t be able to afford to explore the country as much as I would like but with a lot of street food only and cheap hostels hopefully I’ll make it for a week or so.
I got the easy 6hour bus from Ho Chi Min to Pnomh Penh. Border was no problem the friendly driver took care of everything for us. We arrived at approx 11pm and we were so lucky to be staying at a friend’s house we had both met in Chiang Mai! We stayed up late chatting and catching up.
Slow start the next morning with an amazing breakfast made by our friends mam. We were spoilt! We walked into the centre, to the riverside and checked out the monuments. We went to the cafe that’s run by women who were trafficked. Really nice cafe by the river. It was Christopher Street say so there was meant to be a tuk tuk race on but after searching and asking a lot of bewildered but helpful people we gave up and walked to the market instead.

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Central Market

The market was huge but not too chaotic so it was nice. We got some really good cheap lunch; a Cambodian Banh Xeo and the best fresh spring roll I’ve had on my trip. We were delighted to see cheap food because it’s immediately obvious that Cambodia is a lot more expensive than Vietnam.
We got back in time to meet our friend Paul after work. We went for good but cheap Japanese food near his place and then got some 2 dollar whisky to drink before heading out. As it was Christopher Street day,which Is basically gay pride we went to the gay club for the festival closing party. We had a great night! Free dance shows, 90s music and the Colombians are so friendly so I was making new friends all night!

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Making friends with the DJ!

As the next day was Sunday we spent it with Paul and his mam. Food and markets and the Russian market which is also a good market but a lot busier and chaotic but more handcrafts. That night we went to reunite with my friend Corina for some food, I travelled all of Malaysia with and a lot of Thailand! I love reunions! I got the famous beef lok lak it was nice but don’t think I had a great version.
Up early the next morning to go to The Killing Fields. It’s an expensive day out but it’s worth it. I had no idea the Khmer Rouge was so devastating, the audio tour is really well done too.

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After that we were back to the central market again for some cheap lunch,noodle soup this time. Pretty good aswell although the pork will never be like Vietnam!

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Still on the noodle soup!

Again we got back in time to see Paul after work and enjoy some rare couch time! Miss a comfy couch so much! Looking forward to my home recliners when I get back ๐Ÿ™‚
Paul shares my live for fresh spring rolls so we decided to make use of having a kitchen and make our own. So easy and fun at the same time, not to mention so tasty!!

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Spring roll making

We decided to go to Seim Reip next to meet another friend I met in Thailand and also because the weather on the islands is bad at the moment. Probably not the most sensible decision since I’m going to Bangkok next but no point seeing beaches in the rain :/ decisions decisions….
So we got a night bus that night at 11pm and said goodbye to Paul, his mam and the comfy couch ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

On the bike again…Mui Ne

I was delighted I was able to put my bag on a bus and hop on the bike again from Dalat to Mui Ne. We left at 9am for what should have been an easy few hours drive. The road was nice and wide and surprisingly good views which we wernt expecting. We met a group of Asian bikers at one of the main viewpoints and we’re straight away surrounded by selfie sticks and they all wanted pictures with us.

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Selfie Stick gang

What I loved about this drive was that in a matter of hours the road went from mountainous and green to barren and dessert like. Such a huge contrast in a short amount of time.

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About an hour in to the drive me met two friends from the Dalat hostel on their scooters. Within minutes one of their scooters broke down. We pulled in at a rest stop with tons of hammocks and a really friendly family who gave us a huge jug of Vietnamese tea and helped us find a rope so Nick could tow him to a mechanic nearby.
So we arrived to Mui Ne later than planned, hungry, sandy and in bad need of a shower. We got to our hostel Mui Ne Hills and couldn’t believe our luck when she upgraded us to a villa for free!! A pool with a sea view and all!!
So we immediately changed our minds to stay 2 nights instead of one.
We got some much-needed food and then went to the red sand dunes for sunset. The views on the way of the fishing boats were really nice. The red dunes themselves I didn’t find to be anything to spectacular bit after the dunes of Peru I’m a bit of a dune snob! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We had a look at the beach aswell which wasnt the best but watching the kite surfing was cool.

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Fishing boats

Chilled out with a cheap bottle of red wine that night at our villa feeling like flashpackers! ๐Ÿ™‚
Got up bright and early the next morning foe a swim in the pool before going to The Fairy Stream. It’s only 5000 to get in and you walk through ankle-deep river water to see a nice canyon wall with random cows hanging out and an ostrich farm where you can ride ostriches! No thanks! Stream was worth a look though.

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Frolicking in the stream

We had some delicious lunch in a local plastic chair restaurant. Vietnamese chicken pancake Banh Xeo. Best one I’ve tasted.
After lunchย Nick surprised me with a motorbike lesson on a dead end road we found. I loved it! I had great support from a local and his son sitting in the shade giving me the thumbs up every time I passed.

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Delighted with myself!

Then it was back to the pool to relax for a bit before reuniting with Dana again. We went on a mission to find ‘Soup Taxi Stand Lady’ย  that I had read about in travel blogs and we found her. Well we think we did anyway! The soup was a noodle soup with dumplings and pork and it was unreal and only 20000!
Mui Ne was better than I expected but still not amazing. The villa definitely made it and the landscape around it is worth a trip.

Last stop in Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh

Arrived into HCM on an easy 4 hour bus that dropped me at the bus station right in District 1. On the short walk down a few streets to my hostel I immediately knew I was going to like HCM. It doesn’t have the same chaotic charm as Hanoi but it’s close. Street food at every corner, little alley ways filled with beauticians and massage parlours and the usual noisy but entertaining traffic.
My hostel ‘Vintage’ was right on the busy Backpacker Street where at night it was packed with blue and red plastic chairs on the street selling really cheap drinks. I pocked the right spot! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Blending I'm with the traffic

I had an explore around the surrounding streets, got a Vietnamese ice coffee and enjoyed some people watching. I got some local Hu Tieu soup for dinner and met my friends for some cheap GnTs on the street where you can equally meet locals or tourists.
I had as usual read a lot of travel blogs before arriving and they all raved about the street food. So we decided to a mix of a food tour and sight seeing the next day as we still had the bike.
We tried some delicious food. Banh Cuon is one of my favourite dishes to date!

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Pork dumpling heaven!

We went to the War Remnants Museum because it was close and we were so happy we did! We ended up there for over 3 hours, it was very intense and moving. Made me want to learn more about the war.
Dinner was another blog recommendation which was also amazing!

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Bhan Thit nuong

Il be rolling home at this stage! Too many good food to try! We popped into the markets on the way home but we were fairly tired at that stage so we saved it for the next day.
We booked into an early half day tour of the Cu Chi tunnels. I’m very wary of tours and try to avoid lately but the museum made me want to see them even more. I’m so happy I went. It was amazing to see the intelligence of the Vietnamese to build these unbelievable tunnels with built in kitchen and ventilation etc. We got to walk through some Aswell I don’t know how they lived down there for.do long.

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Getting into a tunnel

We gave the market a second chance after the tour and its actually a very good market and I practiced my bargaining skills hard here. As it was Danas last night before flying home we went to the Saigon skydeckfor a look. Very fancy so we didn’t stay but very nice view. I went on the hunt for salsa but unfortunately it was cancelled. Really missing my salsa fix lately!
My last day in HCM was pretty hectic as I had organised to visit the International School at 8am. I observed some classes and met the staff, such an amazing school! Made me really think about Vietnam as a place to work.
By the time I got back I had just enough time to sell my helmet and find delicious Street food for our last Vietnamese meal ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Going to miss the food big-time! Don’t feel ready to leave Vietnam at all but has to be done. Next stop…Cambodia!